It’s mid-June (time sure does fly!), and with less than a week until the official start of summer, it’s safe to say that the garden and growing season is now in full swing! While we all eagerly await the bushels of corn, tomatoes, beans, and squash that are, in the gardening universe, true definitions of summer, why not take an extra step in your garden planning this summer and try a “themed” garden?

First things first, what exactly is a theme garden? In simplest terms, it’s a garden in which you grow ingredients for specific recipes or other items, or a garden that is otherwise centered around an idea. We’ll be covering a few examples, but this is, per usual, not an exhaustive list. Be creative!

  1. Pizza garden: There’s nothing better than homemade pizza, especially if you have children or family members that refuse veggies! Best of all, pizzas can be enjoyed year-round, and there’s no limitations on toppings! For a basic pizza, plant tomatoes (for sauce later!), garlic, onions, and basil or oregano. Try other vegetables such as bell peppers, banana peppers, roma tomatoes, and other herbs such as parsley and rosemary. For extra fun, lay out the plot in a circular form, with each section of vegetables as a “slice”. Or, if you oversee a community garden or have one in your area, incorporate a plot into a pizza plot. Here is an article that details a circular layout.
  2. Vegetable soup garden: It’s summer time now, but if you’re planning a fall garden, think vegetable soup! Grow carrots, garlic, tomatoes, green beans, parsley and/or basil, potatoes, corn, kale (or another green). Experiment with other vegetables such as zucchini, summer squash, any heirloom beans you normally grow, broccoli, peas, or celery (if you’re able to grow it). Here is the original inspiration for a vegetable soup garden. P.S. This website is an astounding wealth of information for organic gardeners. Check it out and subscribe to the newsletters if you haven’t already!
  3. Medicinal/Herbal garden: For any of you who practice using herbal remedies, or making your own products, try growing herbs and plants such as chamomile, lavender, lemon balm, and mint. For flowers, plant echinacea or calendula.
  4. Pumpkin patch: This isn’t “technically” a garden, but if you have children, dedicate a plot in your garden for the kids to plant pumpkins for the fall! Not only will the children be involved in planting, but imagine the joy that will come from harvesting those bright, beautiful jack-o-lanterns that they got to plant!
  5. Salad garden: Probably the most common of theme gardens, without meaning to be, salad gardens are any combination of lettuces, greens, salad mixes, that are desired. Romaine goes very well as a salad base, on its own or with other lettuces. Try planting other leafy, tender greens such as arugula, spinach, or chard. For added texture, plant carrots, radishes, tomatoes, or broccoli. Additionally, the greens from turnips or beets, as well as the shoots from pea plants, also make flavorful additions to salad!




Varieties For All Seasons

Now that you have a plan in mind, or at least an idea, you might not know what to plant. Below are some varieties suitable for whatever theme you’ve decided (or if you’re just in need of some additional inspiration for what to plant this year):

-Lettuces:  Grow Appalachia HQ has experimented with growing Coastal Star and Green Towers in the past, excellent flavor and keeps well. Try a mesclun mix for different flavor, color, and texture. For greens, arugula, dandelion, or swiss chard for a burst of color. Buttercrunch lettuce and Four Seasons are perfect for color and texture.

-Pizza vegetables: For tomato paste/sauce, Amish Paste is Johnny’s most popular, an heirloom variety. They also sell an Heirloom Collection, which features Brandywine, Amish Paste, and Cherokee Purple. Geneovese basil give a traditional basil flavor, like what’s found in pesto. For peppers, Yankee Bell is an organic option, and Ace is an early-growing, high producing variety.

-Soup vegetables: In the above-mentioned article, Juliet tomatoes, Aunt Ada’s italian bean, Piracicaba broccoli, and various peas, so use your favorites!

-Pumpkins: Featured in a previous Grow Appalachia newsletter dedicated to these pleasant pepos, Charisma, Snowball (they’re white!!), Orange Smoothie (good for painting).



How do you like to get creative in the garden? Share your ideas with us on email or through our Facebook/Twitter/Instagram, and happy theming!

Resources/Further Reading:

A Way to Garden–  A website and blog maintained by Margaret Roach, she is an avid organic gardener and vegetarian. She lives in the Hudson Valley of New York and has published two books, “And I Shall Have Some Peace There” and “The Backyard Parables.” She posts frequent blogs covering a myriad of topics such as gardening, vegetarian cooking, shrubbery, flora/fauna, and much more. If you’re a podcast listener…she’s there too!

A recipe that uses spaghetti squash as a pizza crust!

More creative ideas for theme gardens, primarily if you have children.

Our Summer Feeding Program in Berea doesn’t do theme “gardens”, per se, but themed activities- this past weekend they created art using natural materials. Check it out!


*Featured image is of The David School and their “hot sauce” high tunnel.